Construction Corruption in NYC

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Throughout my forty year career in the design and construction community I have been called upon often by owners how best to address the 900 lb. gorilla that hovers over the industry: the existence and persistence of corruption in how buildings are designed and constructed.

Make no mistake about the nature of the problem. There have been regular reports that corruption is not solely limited to the construction world’s tendency among some to hide the true cost of construction; to create two sets of books for a project and make sure the owner only sees the set with higher costs; and the use of many workers who are shown as needed for a project who are, in fact, no-shows and reap unwarranted profits for construction executives.

But the problem often extends to complicit architects, interior designers, commercial real estate brokers and project managers all have been caught up by prosecutors in New York City for their roles in leading to bilking corporations, institutions and developers — as well as private owners — of hundreds of millions of dollars.

The article, "The anatomy of construction corruption: How bribery and overbilling schemes have become commonplace in the world of real estate’s middlemen", that recently appeared in The Real Deal, and which liberally quoted me on the subject, highlights the latest round up of contractors who were prosecuted for such heinous behavior. [https://therealdeal.com/issues_articles/the-anatomy-of-construction-corruption/]. Ultimately, we find that fines and penalties are imposed to recoup the monies wrongfully taken from their clients. Occasionally, a few executives of these companies are jailed. But, curiously, most of the largest culprits have paid their fines only to see their businesses continue to grow and prosper and treat their wrongdoing as a cost of doing business.

Inevitably, if our city, state and federal governments want to eliminate this kind of behavior our officials will need to become more serious about ending this type of unacceptable behavior. Setting boundaries going forward should include automatic jail sentences for those within each company who play a role in the setting of these payments and subcontractors who are complicit must also be penalized.

Finally, there should be one, two or five year suspensions of the licenses given to contractors to conduct business to emphasize the seriousness of this type of behavior. That will send the true level of the message we need to end this kind of virulent behavior for all time.

As always, please let me have your comments.

Trump’s infrastructure plan is “dead on arrival”: Barry LePatner

Following the recent derailment of an Amtrak commuter train north of Seattle, the producers of MSNBC reached out to me and asked me to join Ali Velshi and Stephanie Ruhle to discuss this disaster and the subject of our nation’s infrastructure. The five minute interview is shown by clicking on the image above.

MSNBC has highlighted the interview by citing my statement that the soon to be revealed Trump infrastructure plan is “dead on arrival”. I believe there will be little likelihood that the members of Congress can support a plan to improve our perilous infrastructure by adding $200 billion more to the nation’s deficit which just experienced an increase in the national debt of $1.5 trillion from the newly-passed tax plan of the GOP. Moreover, the infrastructure plan is heavily weighted to require states to make up a large portion of the $800 billion to be raised by outside equity and state contributions. This would only be possible by increases in state taxes – taxes that are not always deductible by its citizens under the new tax law.

For those of you who wrote about not receiving the video of my recent interview with Bob Herbert, former op-ed columnist for the NYTimes as shown on CUNY-TV, here is the link of that discussion about our nation’s infrastructure. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MkidnPrKzEs

Please share your comments and let me extend my warmest wishes to all for the upcoming holidays and the New Year

Taxing the American Dream

What does it mean when the best of our next and future generations will be deprived of gaining a hope for securing a masters degree or going for an advanced science degree or seeking a medical school education which will be much needed skills in the years ahead?

The American education system has been the gold standard for training our – and the world’s – future leaders in science, government, teaching and a host of other fields that are central to maintaining our exceptionalism. However, the new tax legislation under final consideration by the U.S. Congress appears to be a direct assault on any hopes of keeping that reputation alive for the future.

In his recent article for Medium, Graham Glusman of Columbia University notes that “college access has expanded dramatically in the past 75 years, enabling students from middle and low-income families to attend college.

This has largely been the result of federal programs and scholarships that were designed to do just that, such as the Pell Grant. In 1976, there were 1.9 million Pell Grant recipients, receiving $6.2 billion worth of financial aid. In 2012, that number had increased to 9.4 million recipients, who received nearly $40 billion in aid. As a result of heightened accessibility, the United States is one of the most educated countries in the world, which has had a reciprocal effect on Americans’ incomes and on the economy at large. On average, people with a bachelor’s degree make 66 percent more than those without them.”

The current tax proposal before Congress represents an assault on securing greater accessibility for undergrads. Worse, it is an outright effort to make it nearly impossible for graduate students from lower and middle income families from seeking advanced degrees – masters, doctoral and professional – by taxing their tuition waivers. Consider the following example cited in the article:

“if a student seeking a medical degree and making $2,000 a year part time at a coffee shop also received $30,000 a year from a university to help with tuition, that student’s taxable income would be $32,000. The absurdity of the proposal is that a student, who presumably takes on a job to help pay for basic necessities like food, heating, and rent, would have to pay taxes as if their earned income were 16 times higher than it actually is."

“In 2017, the federal tax on $32,000 was $2,763.75, more money than the student actually made at the coffee shop in the first place. What makes this plan so nonsensical is that the student never actually sees the $30,000 waiver; it is immediately deducted from their tuition, the rest of which they are still required to pay. So not only would students who received such waivers be in immediate debt simply for attending graduate programs, they would still have to pay the rest of the tuition that their waiver didn’t cover.”

What is the purpose of tax legislation that is punitive to those trying to gain a brighter future for themselves through education? What does it mean when the best of our next and future generations will be deprived of gaining a hope for securing a masters degree or going for an advanced science degree or seeking a medical school education which will be much needed skills in the years ahead?

Is this the kind of country that America should hold itself out as offering to its citizens? Do the voters even understand that their children and grandchildren’s opportunities have been frustrated by tax legislation that makes it near impossible for them to secure what used to be an inalienable right for all?

Please let me have your comments on this latest development. More importantly, reach out and let your Congressperson know that this is downright foolish as well as unfair.

Barry LePatner Discusses Our Failing Infrastructure with Bob Herbert of Op-Ed.TV

In case you were pulled in other directions the other evening, I thought I would send to you a link of my interview with Bob Herbert that aired Tuesday night on CUNY-TV. The discussion covered a broad range of infrastructure topics that I know you will find of interest.

Please share with me your comments and, most importantly, I hope each of you enjoys a heartwarming Thanksgiving.

Barry LePatner Interview with Bob Herbert on Infrastructure on CUNY-TV

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There are members of the media who one meets at interviews for press, radio and TV. Many of these individuals are consummate professionals who have developed their craft as journalists over the course of their careers. Only a few rise to the level of being at the top of their field based on their wide range of experience and most importantly, who bring a critical level of empathy to the wide range of subjects they cover.

Bob Herbert joined The New York Times as an Op-Ed columnist in 1993. His twice a week column covered politics, urban affairs and social trends. He began his career as a reporter with The Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J., in 1970. He became its night city editor in 1973. Over his career Bob won numerous awards, including the Meyer Berger Award for coverage of New York City and the American Society of Newspaper Editors award for distinguished newspaper writing. He was chairman of the Pulitzer Prize jury for spot news reporting in 1993.

Maybe I have had a special affinity for Bob because we share the distinct honor of both having been born in Brooklyn. Whereas I attended Brooklyn College, he has taught journalism at Brooklyn College as well as the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He currently writes for the Demos blog PolicyShop as well as The American Prospect magazine, which merged with Demos in 2010.

In 2014, Bob published, Losing Our Way: An Intimate Portrait of a Troubled America and I was honored to have been interviewed for the section he wrote on our failing infrastructure which detailed the cost to our nation for our failure to address this important sector of our nation’s history.

So, when Bob asked me recently to appear on his TV program, Bob Herbert’s Op-Ed.TV for CUNY-TV, I was excited to join him in a wide ranging interview on how our nation’s infrastructure has reached the critical juncture it now finds itself and where our nation must go if we are to address the sad state of our roads, bridges, power grid, dams and water supply in a constructive fashion.

You can see the premier of the upcoming interview will air on CUNY TV on the following dates:

Premieres on Monday, November 20 at 8:30pm

Repeats on:

  • Wednesday, November 22 - 11:30pm
  • Saturday, November 25 - 3:00pm
  • Sunday, November 26 - 9:30am
  • Monday, November 27 - 9:30am, 3:30pm
  • Saturday, December 2 - 3:00pm
  • Monday, December 4 - 9:30am, 3:30pm

CUNY TV is cablecast in New York City on Ch. 75 (Spectrum and Cablevision), Ch. 77 (RCN), and Ch. 30 (Verizon). CUNY TV is also digitally broadcast on Channel 25.3, reaching the New York metropolitan area.

After its television premiere, the episode will be posted on the show’s webpage at this link: http://www.cuny.tv/show/opedtv/PR2006362 I believe you will find our discussion to cover a broad perspective on this important subject and let you see why Bob Herbert is such an exceptional interviewer who deserves our attention.

Getting Older While Staying Young

It is inevitable that, as we grow older, we begin to focus our attention on the difference between one’s latter years and those that formed the first decades of our life. This distinction is one that comes to us slowly; there is no cathartic moment, no revelation that seemingly comes from the heavens to alert each of us to the onset of old age.

To think of one’s aging is to begin a new journey in one’s life. It should not be the presaging of the beginning of the end of life. For to think in such a pessimistic fashion is to fail to open ourselves to the many benefits to be derived from the experiences of our earlier years, to reflect on how we can best craft those experiences into a decade or two or four that can be the most fruitful times of our lives.

So it was with great pleasure that I came to read this summer the beautifully wrtiten book by the late Sherwin B. Nuland, The Art of Aging: A Doctor’s Prescription for Well-Being. Nuland wrote this book in 2007, some 17 years after he wrote “How We Die,” which won the National Book Award for nonfiction in 1994 and which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in nonfiction in 1995, having sold more than 500,000 copies worldwide. In its concluding chapter, Dr. Nuland confessed that he, like many of his readers, desired a death without suffering “surrounded by the people and the things I love,” though he hastened to add that his odds were slim. This brought him to a final question.

“And so, if the classic image of dying with dignity must be modified or even discarded,” he wrote, “what is to be salvaged of our hope for the final memories we leave to those who love us? The dignity we seek in dying must be found in the dignity with which we have lived our lives.”

In “The Art of Aging” Nuland writes elegaically about how we must dedicate ourselves to accepting the onset of aging and not struggle to fight the contrasts between how our body and mind addresses growing older. He notes that "The rivalry within ourselves reflects a rivalry with youth, and it serves neither youth nor age at all well. Successful aging is about successfully adapting which brings the greater opportunity for far greater tensions and for brightening the later decades with a light not yet visible to the young,” it is the acknowledgement that aging is a gift that creates new boundaries in our lives. "Everything within those boundaries becomes more precious than it was before: love, learning, family, work, health and even the lessened time itself.”

His advice to us is to accept the wisdom that comes with age. Even if we did not attain wisdom at an earlier age, we can now begin a new journey that will bring us (1) a sense of mutual caring and connectedness with others; (2) the maintenance, insofar as we can influence it by own actions, of the physical capability of our bodies; and (3) creativity. Each of the three requires work; each of the three brings immense rewards.

I took several pages of notes from the book as they portrayed to me ratification of some of the principles I have adopted for my own onset of the aging process. My focused attention on staying in excellent help by investing in time in a gym doing workouts with weights to my time on a tennis court playing singles against others sometimes decades younger than myself was addressed by Nuland who cites Dr. Michael deBakey, inventor of the heart replacement operation who was performing these delicate operations at age 94. Nuland notes that "Planned, vigorous exercise is a far better anti-aging treatment than all the elixirs, creams, lotions, potions, and cosmetic surgery in the world.”

It was especially soothing to have Nuland point out that If there’s a Holy Grail, it’s our relationships with other people. For each older man and woman, "each needs to maintain a significant role as a distinctive individual within his or her familial and social encirclement – to have purpose, to have value, to have dignity – not only self-perception but in fact as well.” For, as he points out with examples, "Whatever else aging may represent to us, it is first and foremost a state of mind."

Finally, Nuland discusses the need to separate ourselves from our careers. As we age, we just cannot continue to identify who we are by what we did for a living. Our unique personality is what defines us not our chosen path of career. "So long as we are actively engaged in career, we must abide more or less strictly to the boundaries imposed by it. But *once we begin to separate ourselves, we bit by bit become freer to continue maturing in ways distinctive to ourselves. By such means, age becomes a liberator. The better we have used our years, the greater will be the rewards of individuality and accrued wisdom."

As friends and colleagues, I hope that you find the peace of mind to accept that growing older is mostly a state of mind and part of the exciting journey of our lives that is as important as all that came before…. if not more so.

Can Failing Infrastructure Be Bad For Your Health?

THE STREAM ALJAZEERA Tuesday, 5 Sept 2017 | 3:30 PM ET

Barry LePatner appeared on “The Stream” a live interview program put out to over 250 million households across the world by Aljazeera. Joining in on the discussion was a quite interesting group of knowledgeable participants including: Tom Smith, Executive Director, American Society of Civil Engineers, John Nichols, Author, "Horsemen of the Trumpocalypse” and Political correspondent, The Nation Magazine and Tanvi Misra, Staff writer, CityLab. The conversation addressed the state of the U.S. infrastructure and the prospects for remediating this troubled sector of our nation.

Barry LePatner is the Keynote Speaker at the Construction Industry Institute's Annual Conference

In my book on the inefficiencies of the construction industry, "Broken Buildings, Busted Budgets," I noted that the industry is the lowest spender per employee on technology to improve productivity. I said that insofar as advanced technology use in the construction world is concerned, the industry is in the first inning of a long awaited need to bring this $1 trillion a year sector of the U.S. economy into the 21st Century.

If anything, several new developments have triggered sufficient progress within the industry over the past few years to indicate that the construction world has incrementally moved forward into integrating new technology into the design\construction processes so integral in building our future societal needs.

Click here to see the speech, "A Brave New World: Who will survive when new technologies re-shape the A/E/C industry?" from the keynote speech I presented in Boston at the 2015 Construction Industr][2]y Institute last August. As you will see, it is a thought provoking presentation and evidences why new technology will be shaking up the hide bound industry within the next ten years.

I am proud that this speech received such a warm reception from the CII executives who attended. I know you will find it thought provoking and worth your time.

Barry LePatner is interviewed on CNBC to discuss our nation's infrastructure in light of the failed dam in Orreville, CA.

Barry LePatner was interviewed on CNBC by the four hosts of the daily business TV program, “Power Lunch" to discuss the state of our nation’s infrastructure and the news surrounding the failed dam in Orreville, California.

The hosts were very savvy on the subject and most interested when he urged the need for an “infrastructure Czar” to break thru the morass of the logjam created by the US Congress for the past several decades.

Mr. LePatner believes there remains substantial congressional logjams that will mitigate against the full onslaught of pushing through a comprehensive infrastructure program over the next few years. While we should remain hopeful, as this was a strong issue for President Trump, the hurdles his administration will face in trying to effect such a program will be substantial.

Reclaiming the Architect's Authority

January 24, 2011

Alexander Tuttle, a Partner with LePatner & Associates, recently wrote an article for distribution among friends and colleagues. In the article, entitled "Reclaiming the Architect's Authority," Mr. Tuttle discusses how architects' authority over construction projects have eroded in the last 40 years and advocates recapturing their role as "Master Builder". Currently, construction managers run unchecked on projects. Invariable delays occur, which lead to construction cost overruns.

Mr. Tuttle considers how implementing a fixed price construction process through up-front project planning, complete and coordinated construction documents and more extensive architectural project oversight will carve a new landscape in the industry -- reclaiming architects' authority. Consider, for example, if architects could stand behind complete and coordinate design documents? If architects could restore owner control over the project budgets? And if, when the design documents were completed, the owner secured an independent cost estimate that would define the parameters of the costs to be anticipated by the contractor bidders? This is the essence of the LePatner C3™ Methodolgy.

Mr. Tuttle concludes that the construction industry is ripe for change. And change will only emerge through construction cost certainty and architects reclaiming their role as efficient and effective intermediaries. We hope you find this article interesting.

Barry LePatner weighs in on the state of New York City's bridges in the New York Times video series "Living City."

In the New York Times’ new six-part “Living City” series, Barry LePatner weighs in on the state of New York City’s bridges and offers commentary on the renovation of the Brooklyn Bridge and the handling of infrastructure in New York City. “Living City: A Tale of Two Bridges” presents a brief history of New York City’s bridges and compares the decision to replace the Tappan Zee Bridge with the decision to repair the iconic Brooklyn Bridge. Click here to take you to the video.

Barry LePatner is featured in NY Times "Living City | A Tale of Two Bridges"

Sep. 18, 2014

With thousands of bridges in New York State deemed structurally deficient, there are two choices: repair or rebuild. The 60-year-old Tappan Zee Bridge and the Brooklyn Bridge are the latest examples. In this video from the New York Times’ six-part “Living City” series, Barry LePatner weighs in on the state of New York City’s bridges and offers commentary on the renovation of the Brooklyn Bridge and the handling of infrastructure in New York City. “Living City: A Tale of Two Bridges” presents a brief history of New York City’s bridges and compares the decision to replace the Tappan Zee Bridge with the decision to repair the iconic Brooklyn Bridge.

Under Scrutiny, States Trim List of Bad Bridges

Oh, if only we could just say it is true and have it become so. Here is yet another blatant attempt by the American Society of Civil Engineers to sugarcoat the serious problems with our nation’s bridge infrastructure. It is bad enough that the ASCE consistently issues an Infrastructure Report Card giving our ailing bridges a “C+” every few years. This totally ignores the fact that we have nearly 8,000 bridges that are both structurally deficient and fracture critical, meaning they can collapse – just as the )-35W in Minnesota and the I-5 over the Skagit River in Washington did in recent years – posing a deadly threat to the traveling public. Not to mention that 140,000 vehicles every day travel 3.5 miles over the Tappan Zee Bridge (which has to wait a few more years for a replacement), which gives boaters under the bridge a chance to look up and see skylight seeping thru the failing substructure. Please see my comment at the end of the ASCE-generated article. We will need to continue to “hold our collective breaths” until either further unwarranted tragedy occurs or Congress begins to see the proverbial light to enhanced funding.

http://www.governing.com/news/headlines/gov-under-scrutiny-states-trim-list-of-bad-bridges.html

LePatner Interviewed on 20/20

March 18, 2013

Barry LePatner was interviewed on 20/20 this past Friday night on its segment covering "America's Most Dangerous Bridges." Citing research from his book, Too Big To Fall on the perilous state of our nation's infrastructure, LePatner advocated more dedicated funds be allocated toward repair and maintenance, especially for the more than 8,000 structurally deficient and fracture critical bridges across the country. You can see all of them at www.SaveOurBridges.com.

And stay off the Tappan Zee!

 Barry LePatner being interviewed in LePatner's offices by 20/20 correspondent, Deborah Roberts.

Barry LePatner being interviewed in LePatner's offices by 20/20 correspondent, Deborah Roberts.

LePatner appearing on 20/20 Fri Mar 15 at 10pm

I thought that interest in the nation’s infrastructure plight would fall off drastically within a few days of President Obama’s State of the Union address in mid-January where he alluded to the need for more investment to improve the “72,000 structurally deficient bridges” across our nation. Yes, there were the interviews I gave to BBC-TV and appearances on CNBC’s First Business, along with radio and newspaper quotes over the next week or two. But I then expected the nation would quickly return to the sequester fun that the US Congress is having, the novelty of a Pope resigning for the first time in 700 years, or the burning issue as to whether the 100 magazines that pictured Taylor Swift on their covers in 2012 ever saw even the tiniest bump in circulation from putting her on the cover as opposed to Angelina Jolie or Jessica whoever (in fact, there was not the slightest bump up for sad Taylor).

So I was somewhat surprised to hear directly from a producer for ABC-TV’s highly acclaimed 20/20 that they wanted to come over and do an interview on infrastructure for their show this Friday night. It was only early on Monday morning of this week that the producers mentioned that the interview would be done by Deborah Roberts, who appeared several hours later all prepared to discuss the fragility of our nation’s bridges and just how we got ourselves into this sorry state of affairs. Within two hours, 20/20's crew literally set up an interview studio in the rear section of our offices using hundreds of feet of cabling, lots of hot lights and cameras galore.

As the interview proceeded it was apparent that Ms. Roberts began to grasp the enormity of the crisis blurting out, “so, it’s not about if these 8,000 structurally deficient bridges that are also fracture critical bridges are going to fall someday, … it’s …" and she left off in a rather theatrical way, nodding for me to finish the sentence…."it’s just a matter of when since every engineer associated with bridge design and maintenance understands that gravity always wins.”

The full interview will be shown this coming Friday on 20/20 at 10 PM EDT. Tune in and let me know if I made a persuasive case for one of our nation’s most underrated subjects needing immediate attention.

-Barry LePatner

LePatner: It’s About Time for “Fix It First”

Fix it first. With these three simple words, in Tuesday night’s State of the Union, President Obama laid out a $50-billion dollar infrastructure plan that would focus on repairing the nation’s most in-need roads and bridges. It was music to the ears of author and infrastructure expert Barry LePatner.

“I was very pleased to hear about the President’s ‘Fix It First’ plan,” says LePatner, creator of www.SaveOurBridges.com and author of Too Big to Fall: America’s Failing Infrastructure and the Way Forward (www.TooBigToFall.com). “As many policymakers, infrastructure experts and those in the construction industry know, I’ve been insisting we address our dire infrastructure needs since the I-35W bridge tragically collapsed in Minneapolis in August 2007.”

“I strongly encourage Congress to approve this spending. It is simply not true that there is no money for infrastructure investment. Over the years, politicians have channeled their allotted federal funds to build new projects that lead to ribbon-cutting ceremonies, publicity, and votes. Repair projects just haven’t been sexy enough.”

LePatner recently appeared on BBC News to address our Nation’s failing infrastructure and to discuss the Tappan Zee Bridge. In addition, LePatner was also called upon to speak on the Nation’s infrastructure on “Street Signs” hosted by Brian Sullivan on CNBC.

Click here to see a replay of LePatner’s appearance on BBC News.

Click here to see a replay of LePatner’s appearance on CNBC.

U.S. bridges can be repaired without impacting the deficit, insists LePatner. Repairing the top 2,000 bridges would cost an estimated $30-60 billion and would put 1.2 million construction workers to work. These workers, many of whom would be coming off of unemployment, would pay back 30 percent of their money earned in income taxes, and much of the rest would be pumped back into the economy through their consumer spending.

LePatner thinks Americans have a right to know just how bad the nation’s infrastructure has gotten. That’s why he recently created SaveOurBridges.com, a site he hopes will not only educate the public on the dangerous bridges in their communities but will help bring attention to an issue that has been continuously ignored by the nation’s policymakers. The site pinpoints the 7,980 bridges in the U.S. that are both structurally deficient and fracture critical, just as the I-35W Bridge was prior to its collapse. It also allows visitors to search by zip code or city and state to find the dangerous bridges in their area. “With ‘Fix It First,’ the President is taking a bold and necessary move,” says LePatner. “We can no longer treat our infrastructure as a second- or third-tier priority when it comes to funding. President Obama seems to understand and the rest of the nation needs to know that the risks we face are not limited to the dangers they cause to the traveling public. They include jeopardizing our country’s entire commercial sector as well as our national security network.”

“I hope the nation’s other leaders realize that they can’t wait any longer to provide the needed funding to make our bridges safe,” he concludes. “They must act now. Concrete, steel, and money aren’t the only things at stake. Lives are at stake. Nothing is more important than that.”

The Coming Economic Recovery

In Barry LePatner’s book, Broken Buildings, Busted Budgets, he wrote that our nation was poised to see tremendous economic growth and cited some impressive facts: the U.S. population would expand from 300 million to 400 million by the year 2045; between 2000 and 2030, the number of Americans over the age of 65 will more than double and see massive migration to the South and Southwest where we will build 100 billion square feet of new homes; that U.S. construction in the next thirty years would represent a boom of $25 trillion that would sweep along every sector of the U.S. economy. Of course, there are many who see the severe downturn in the economy over the past few years as an indication that our nation will not be returning to glory days of a roaring economy anytime soon nor see such heady news of a renewed economy likely to eventuate. LePatner could not disagree more.

So for those who want to see a real economic harbinger of things to come (now that spring flowers are budding along the streets and byways of our nation) here are a few statistics to buoy your own sense of optimism. They come courtesy of the Urban Land Institute and its survey of 38 leading real estate economists across the nation. The results show solid reasons for a rebounding economy. Keep in mind that real estate and the associated activity that it generates in the construction industry are true leading indicators of an economy emerging from a recession.

The ULI survey notes that over the next three years:

Commercial property transaction volume is expected to increase over 50%; Institutional real estate assets and REITS are expected to provide returns ranging from 8.5% to 11% annually; Vacancy rates are expected to drop in a range from 1.2 and 3.7 percentage points for office, retail and industrial properties while hotel occupancy rates are likely to rise; Housing starts will nearly double by 2014 and home prices will begin to rise in 2013 increasing by 3.5% in 2014.

The economists surveyed expect GDP to rise steadily from 2.5% in 2012 to 3% in 2013 and 3.2% in 2014. Unemployment is expected to fall to 6.9% by 2014 and we will see new job creation total 2 million in 2012, 2.5 million in 2013 and 2.75 million in 2014.

And, yes, there may be bumpy roads ahead and some doubts attributable to the European debt crisis, Middle East tensions, access to oil and climate change. But we need to remember that these same or similar world concerns have been around for many decades where the U.S. economy grew and prospered following every recession on record. Naysayers can join in against these thoughts, but it is hard to ignore the pent up demand of our economy where corporations, lean and mean from the recession and flush with monstrous amounts of cash on hand, are not going to continue to grow or, at the expense of other well-heeled competitors, take on the characteristics of the dinosaur and die off unnecessarily.

As always, we welcome comments.

LePatner Op Ed: Keep Public Projects on Budget

As the new year kicks off, signs that our national and state leaders are beginning to finally recognize the job-creating potential that rests with infrastructure investment are rife. No longer are we seeing politicians trying to gain recognition by cancelling billion dollar bridge, road or rail projects, claiming that they will increase the deficit — even as they destroyed tens of thousands of good-paying several year long jobs. As evidence that those tactics were self-defeating see the recall petitions running through the states of Wisconsin and Indiana and the fact that the Federal government recently forced the State of New Jersey to refund over $275 million for outlays that were part of the planning and design for the now-cancelled ARC tunnel project under the Hudson River.

Attention is also being paid to New York State where Governor Andrew Cuomo, in his State of the State speech announced a $15 billion infrastructure program that included the proposed commencement of construction for a much-needed new Tappan Zee Bridge. Well, the problem here is that the still under construction Interstate 287 in Westchester County that connects Connecticut to the Tappan Zee Bridge has had the terrible misfortune of being $78 million over budget and unaccountably equates to about $70 million a mile for its construction.

So how will New York State even begin to approach construction for what undoubtedly become a $10 – $20 billion effort to replace the structurally deficient and fracture critical Tappan Zee that each year costs the state $100 million to merely keep from falling into the Hudson River becoming the next version of the doomed I-35W that collapsed in Minneapolis in August 2007?

Barry LePatner’s recent Op Ed piece in Newsday provides some serious suggestions that Governor Cuomo should heed before he starts down the slippery slope of turning so much money over to the highly inefficient and often corrupt construction industry. As always, we welcome your thoughts and comments.

http://www.newsday.com/opinion/oped/lepatner-keep-public-projects-on-budget-1.3462336